Apr 7, 2010 7:44 PM by Kate Mundy
Two children left on school buses in one month. Tuesday, a 5-year-old Truman Montessori student fell asleep and woke up in a bus alone. And just this week, an Acadia Parish bus driver returned to work after a suspension for leaving a nine-year old on a bus in March.
School boards are adopting stronger discipline policies to deal with bus drivers who leave children behind on their buses. For instance, in Lafayette, drivers get a 20 day suspension without pay for a first offense and termination for a second offense.
Acadia Transportation Director Steve Jones said punishment for a driver is 10 days without pay after it goes to the board. Some drivers may get more, if it's not their first offense. If there's an aide on the bus that person will get two days without pay
Suspension days vary in Iberia Parish, from five to twenty days. Parishes including Jeff Davis and St. Martin discipline on a case by case basis.
Ricky Domingue has been driving a school bus for 23 years in Lafayette Parish. He's never left a child on board and he makes sure he never will. "It only takes on time to slip up," he said.
Domingue drives four and five year olds at Truman Montessori. He has the help of an attendant. They're required to fill out paper work after mandatory pre-trip and post-trip inspections. They walk through the aisles and check underneath the seats.
The post trip inspection rules apply to every school bus driver, yet another Truman driver Kenneth Babineaux apparently didn't do the check on Tuesday. "I think complacency sets in, some drivers take it for granted because it's an everyday routine, they think that the kids are off," said Domingue.
"Kenny, when I heard about that, he and I've been driving about the same amount of years, he's driving 22, I'm 23, and I couldn't believe it at first, that's a reality check, you know for the rest of everybody else. Now everybody's on their toes," said Domingue.
In the past three years there have been at least four incidents where students were forgotten. Besides the recent two, another Lafayette bus driver and his attendant were suspended without pay for leaving a pre-k student on a bus in April of 2008. Officials said the driver parked his bus at his house and about an hour later discovered the Truman student. The Lafayette Parish School Board voted to suspend the pair for 20 days.
In October of 2007, a Lafayette Parish school bus driver was suspended without pay for leaving a child on her bus. Officials said the four-year-old who was a student at L. Leo Judice Elementary fell asleep on the bus and was later discovered at lafayette middle school.
Superintendent Dale Henderson said Iberia parish hasn't had a case for 8 years. They use "check for sleepers" stickers on board. The stickers are the brainchild of longtime school bus driver David Broussard.
He's printed 10-thousand and he's distributing them across the state. Broussard planned to address the Lafayette Parish School Board at their April 7 meeting to hand out those stickers. He'll be in Acadia Parish for their meeting on April 12th.
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